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Melendez-Diaz forms placed online

Defense attorneys won’t have to spend any time drafting objections to the admission of affidavits and certificates of analysis in lieu of live testimony by analysts from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has conveniently put forms for making the objections on its Web site, ready to be printed and filled out.

The forms are an instant response to emergency legislation related to the Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts case that took effect on Friday when Gov. Timothy M. Kaine signed into law.

The 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June held that the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution generally requires the prosecution to make the analyst available for live testimony. That ruling placed in doubt Virginia’s former procedure that required the defendant to subpoena the analyst and call him as an adverse witness in the defense case.

The new state law establishes a notice and demand procedure that requires prosecutors to notify defendants that they intend to introduce a sworn statement by the analyst rather than call him to testify. The statement may be admitted into evidence unless the defendant demands that the analyst appear in person.

Defense attorneys were quick to respond to Melendez-Diaz. Analysts in the department’s drug section spent 369 hours in court in July compared with only 230 hours in the previous 11 months.

By Alan Cooper

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